WNY soccer star will donate her brain to concussion research, study underway at UB

Abby Wambach
United States' Abby Wambach, center, celebrates her goal against Nigeria during the first half of a match at the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Tuesday June 16, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Recently retired U.S. Women’s national team soccer star– and Western New York native, Abby Wambach, is the latest athlete to donate their brain for concussion research.

Before she retired, Wambach was one of the most aggressive strikers in women’s soccer history. She is known for using her head to score goals throughout her career. Dr. Scott Darling with the University at Buffalo Concussion Clinic said, “If we can study the brains of competitive athletes who have had multiple hits to the head, then down the road we can find out what that actually causes.”

Her choice to donate her brain comes at a time when concussion awareness is at an all-time high in the sport. High-profile athletes donating their brains has become a recent trend as doctors have linked repetitive head trauma in sports to the degenerative brain disease.

Darling said, “If an athlete or a coach or a parent suspects a concussion the most important thing is to remove them from play right away.”

Research is already underway at UB. Darling is working on a study to find out if exercise could help an athlete return to play faster. He said, “If an athlete has a concussion, get it evaluated right away by a medical professional, and if they can enroll in a research study like we have at UB, that is probably the most important thing when it comes to learning about concussions down the road.”

Dr. Darling says says parents need to be cautious when it comes to concussions. His rule: When in doubt, sit them out.

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